Friday, April 27, 2012

Over 900,000 patients still don't have a family physician: Ontario's doctors

Ontario still facing a shortage of over 1,000 doctors

TORONTO, April 27, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - New figures from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) reveal that over 927,000 patients in Ontario, including 132,000 children, still do not have a family doctor, and the province is short more than 1,000 doctors.

Speaking outside an emergency department in Toronto, Dr. Stewart Kennedy, President of the OMA, raised concerns about the impact of the government's plan to unilaterally impose fee cuts on physicians and the effect these will have on the province's ability to recruit and retain physicians.

The OMA believes that if the government's scheme is implemented, more patients will be unable to find a family doctor and will end up in emergency rooms unnecessarily.

Dr. Kennedy pointed to a recent report, "Primary Care in Ontario: Reforms, Investments and Achievements", which illustrates that having access to a family doctor decreases the number of emergency room visits for minor conditions. For example, the number of semi-urgent and non-urgent visits to the ER dropped by over 12% between 2007 and 2010 for patients enrolled with a primary care physician (Figure 1). This finding is consistent with a recent report from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), which noted that not having access to a family doctor resulted in more than 118,000 excess emergency room visits annually, and more than 17,000 excess hospital admissions.

Today's announcement comes just days after the government rejected an offer by the OMA to continue contract negotiations with the assistance of a Conciliator. The negotiations reached an impasse after the government rejected a proposal by the OMA to freeze physician fees for 2 years, and find an additional $250 million in savings in health care, on top of the $300 million already identified.

"We've clearly made some progress at keeping patients out of the emergency room. But it's disappointing that the government is prepared to throw it all away by cutting over $1 billion in programs and fees. Ontario needs more doctors, not less. Fee cuts and unilateral action will hurt the province's ability to recruit and retain physicians."

"We know that one of the ways the health care system can save money is by ensuring patients have a family doctor which will keep them out of the emergency room in the first place." - Stewart Kennedy, MD President Ontario Medical Association

Progress to improve health care in the last 8 years:

...2.1 million more patients now have a doctor, who didn't in 2003.

...40% more doctors are working evenings and weekends.

...Wait times in Ontario are some of the lowest in the country.

...8 million patients now have an electronic medical record being managed by 8,500 doctors.

Competing with other jurisdictions for physicians:

...The U.S. is projecting a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2015.

...The Canadian Institute for Health Information ranks Ontario's fee schedule as 7th in the country.

...Alberta doctors received a 5% increase to fees this year and next year.

...Manitoba doctors will receive over 10% over the next three years.

...Saskatchewan doctors will receive approximately a 4% increase this coming year.

Details of the OMA's offer to government that was rejected:

...0% increase on fees for 2 years, effective April 1, 2012.

...$250 million in direct savings to the OHIP budget over the next 2 years, or the equivalent of a 2.5% discount to every doctor in Ontario.

...A renewed process to find additional, evidence-based savings that do not negatively impact patient care, which previously has helped identify more than $300 million in savings.

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